Heidi Barnes’ Favorite Color

Cupid’s arrow has us shot through the heart this Valentine’s Day. We’re swooning with love for our members, and like any love-struck fool, we just can’t stop gushing about them. Stay tuned over the next 20 days, when we’ll be highlighting fabulous members like Heidi Barnes — a Creative Director who’s been applying her talents to the non-profit and public sectors for the last 25 years (swoon!) — and then celebrate with us in person, at our Open House, this coming March 5 at Metal Toad.

Heidi Barnes is the Creative Director for Educational Service District 112, of Vancouver, Washington, where she has worked for the last 18 years. Heidi is a graduate of Linfield College, where she earned a BA in Communications and Art. As a full-time professional, wife, and mother to a “20-hour-per-week ballet dancing high-school daughter,” Heidi has a full plate. We’re so appreciative that she took time out of her busy schedule to share her story with us, and even ask herself a question of her own…

Heidi, it is so nice to meet you. Please tell us a little more about ESD 112.
ESD 112 is one of nine service agencies in Washington State created by the legislature to equalize education for school districts. However, we are not a state agency. We receive a very small amount of core funding (less than .01% of our budget) from the state. We leverage this “seed” money, in part, to pool resources and develop cooperatives and services for districts that would otherwise be unable to afford them. Every state has service agencies but we are all very different and I don’t believe even a handful offer full communications services to their districts.

Wow, sounds like really meaningful work. What are the most fulfilling and most challenging parts?
Helping school districts and communities solve communications creatively is both remarkably gratifying and valuable. On the flip side of public service, we have very limited resources for an enormous amount of work throughout the state and even across the nation, as far as Pennsylvania. But we have a fantastically talented and caring team that makes it possible and worthwhile.

What prompted you to join AIGA? What has been the most impressive or influential thing to you about your involvement with AIGA?
I joined about five years ago. To use an odd metaphor, AIGA feels like a security blanket. It comforts me to know I have the support of a professional organization in my industry! I also find inspiration in reading about how people have approached a problem and the results they achieved.

That’s great to hear, Heidi. Were you always on a path to your current career and have you always wanted to be part of the creative community?

The greatest minds in history have been creative thinkers, so I guess I see them as rock stars. Problem solving requires creative thinking and generating ideas. I could probably be happy in any industry that requires creative thinking but I found my opportunities in communication arts. I think the best characteristic of the creative community lies in our ability to solve problems through the positive exchange of ideas.

Linfield allowed me the opportunity to fine-tune my degree so that my career options weren’t limited. When I was an 18-year-old baby, I wanted to be a fashion designer but didn’t have the nerve to try. And in my 20s, for a millisecond, I considered working on my masters. Instead, I followed a slow and steady trajectory to Creative Director.

If you could interview any person, living or non-living, who would it be, and what would you want to ask her/him?
Wow, I have to pick just one? I can think of 10 or more! But for the sake of narrowing the subject to creative brilliance, I guess I’d go with Leonardo da Vinci, in fluent 15th century Italian, of course. I would have a million questions around what inspired him. I’d also ask him everything he knows about the golden ratio in nature.

What inspires YOU? The golden ratio?
Everything inspires me: people, stories, color, light, texture, history, fashion, architecture, art. … Everything is related in some way or another—connected. I am endlessly fascinated by the workings of this world.

What’s a dream job of yours, or professional goal?
Oh gosh. I’d love to have a big budget! No. Seriously, I met my goal to become a Creative Director so I think my next challenge will be to branch out of my comfort zone. I don’t know what that is yet. Sometimes I dream of leaving this industry to do something completely different. Maybe I will when my daughter heads for college and I find myself with too much time on hands.

If money weren’t a factor, what would you be doing?
Rather than money, I’ve always felt if I’d had a better math brain I would have chosen to be an architect. I would LOVE to be an architect!

Haha, math brain has been known to get some of the best of us!

Have you heard any good design advice lately that you’d like to share?
Good design is meaningful design. I don’t know if somebody gave me this advice or if I just discovered it through experience, but if I don’t approach my work strategically, it will likely miss the mark. Not to say it’s not still magic when the answers come.

What are your favorite ways to unplug and decompress?
I usually decompress by taking a walk or writing in my prayer journal. My latest guilty time waster though is Instagram. My mind is usually pretty mushy after a bit of that.

Haha, Instagram sucks us in too! Have you been inspired by anything un-Instagram related recently—like talks or events?
I recently heard Jeanette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, speak at a conference. She was able to thrive—not just survive—despite a severely dysfunctional childhood and family. She made me realize that, regardless of the cards we’re dealt, we’re all choosing which way to play them.

How has the Portland creative scene informed your work?
Obviously, Portland has a reputation for the free spirit creative scene, but I’m really inspired by its modern vibe. I find inspiration in the green, modern architecture and the way the city plans for its people. In many ways, it’s still very grassroots and collaborative. And that’s where I find my own work is most inspired and informed.

When guests visit form out of town, where’s the one place you have to take them?
Either the Japanese Garden or wandering around the back roads.

What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Traveling. First on my list: Prague.

Ok, let’s get meta. Ask yourself a question that we haven’t asked you yet.
Favorite color. Stupid question, I know, but I just LOVE color. I love them all, but I love natural light the most. But that doesn’t really make any sense at all, does it?

It doesn’t have to, Heidi; it’s your interview.

Many thanks to Heide Barnes for her time and insights. We are so glad you are part of the fabric that makes up AIGA Portland. And the rest of you, stay tuned as we continue on our journey of 20 Days of Love where we’ll be casting some serious Care Bear stares the people who make up the heart of our organization.


By Thomas McCracken
Published February 14, 2015
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